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Monday, Jan 20, 2020
Home / World News / China waging information war abroad, says new report

China waging information war abroad, says new report

It also mentions exchange agreements that China’s official news agency Xinhua has signed with foreign organisations including in India.

world Updated: Jan 15, 2020 17:33 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
A Chinese flag flutters near a statue of late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong at a train station in Dandong, Liaoning province, in October, 2019.
A Chinese flag flutters near a statue of late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong at a train station in Dandong, Liaoning province, in October, 2019. (Reuters Photo)
         

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has dramatically expanded its ability to shape media narratives about China across the world including in India, a US democracy group has said.

It has urged governments to tighten regulations and impose penalties on the “transgressions” by Chinese officials who try to shape opinions overseas.

“Impose penalties for transgressions by Chinese officials. When Chinese diplomats and security agents overstep their bounds and attempt to interfere with media reporting in other countries, the host government should vigorously protest, warning that such behavior may violate diplomatic protocols,” democracy watchdog Freedom House said in a report titled “Beijing’s Global Megaphone”.

India is mentioned a few times throughout the report, most notably in regards to the global adoption of Chinese social media platforms.

The author of the report, Sarah Cook, said the India-related examples might not be comprehensive - as the report doesn’t focus on specific countries - but there would be tactics that Beijing is applying in India and are covered in the report but where India isn’t necessarily mentioned explicitly.

For one, the report specifically referred to the fact that in India in 2019, Chinese services made up 44 of the 100 most downloaded apps in Google’s Playstore, although not all were social media services.

It also mentions exchange agreements that China’s official news agency Xinhua has signed with foreign organisations including in India.

“Chinese state media content reaches hundreds of millions of television viewers, radio listeners, and social media users abroad, in many cases without transparency, as to its origins,” Cook, a senior research analyst at Freedom House, wrote in the report.

“Beijing’s media influence not only distorts the information environment in the affected settings, it also undermines international norms and fundamental features of democratic governance, including transparency, the rule of law, and fair competition,” the report said.

Chinese state media and private internet companies, according to a Reuters report, have invested heavily overseas including in India prompting concern from lawmakers and rights groups that Beijing could remotely curtail criticism and expand its sphere of influence.

“While some aspects of this effort are in line with traditional public diplomacy, many others are covert, coercive, and potentially corrupt,” the report said.

Freedom House was among several US NGOs sanctioned by China in December over what Beijing says are efforts to interfere in its internal affairs.

On Sunday the head of Human Rights Watch, another US NGO hit by sanctions, was barred from entering Hong Kong ahead of the release of its global report, which strongly criticised China.

The Chinese foreign ministry dismissed both reports.

“As you know, these two organisations have been looking at China through coloured glasses for a long time,” spokesperson Geng Shuang said about the two reports.

“First, the Chinese people have the greatest right to speak about the human rights situation in China. The current human rights situation in China is in the best period in its history,” Geng said.

“Second, the Chinese media has played a positive role in promoting mutual understanding between China and the rest of the world by upholding principles of objective, fair, truthful and accurate reporting. China has also been guaranteeing citizens, the freedom of speech in accordance with the constitution,” he further said.